Apparatus and methods are disclosed for simultaneously tracking multiple finger (202-204) and palm (206, 207) contacts as hands approach, touch, and slide across a proximity-sensing, compliant, and flexible multi-touch surface (2). The surface consists of compressible cushion (32), dielectric electrode (33), and circuitry layers. A simple proximity transduction circuit is placed under each electrode to maximize the signal-to-noise ratio and to reduce wiring complexity. Scanning and signal offset removal on electrode array produces low-noise proximity images. Segmentation processing of each proximity image constructs a group of electrodes corresponding to each distinguishable contacts and extracts shape, position and surface proximity features for each group.; Groups in successive images which correspond to the same hand contact are linked by a persistent path tracker (245) which also detects individual contact touchdown and liftoff. Classification of intuitive hand configurations and motions enables unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.